True-crime podcast “Proof” helps free Cain Joshua Storey, Darrell Lee Clark after 25 years


After a quarter-century in a Georgia prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Cain Joshua Storey had one question when a pair of investigative podcasters said they wanted to tell his story: “What’s a podcast?”

A year and a half after finding out, Storey and Darrell Lee Clark are both free and back in Floyd County just north of Atlanta. The two men, both now 43, had been wrongfully charged with the 1996 shooting of 15-year-old Brian Bowling.

Storey and Clark told The Washington Post on Tuesday they were still adjusting to life outside prison.

Storey said it has taken him a bit to learn how to use a cellphone, but he has a “newfound addiction” — caramel lattes.

Clark said he was prepared to see key cards open doors because he’d seen that on TV, but he’s not used to all the advancements in bathroom technology — toilets that automatically flush are jarring the first time. That and the self checkouts at Walmart.

“I’m just an old country boy,” Clark said.

Their cases had fallen dormant until those two podcasters, Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis, in the true-crime series “Proof,” uncovered that the two testimonies holding up the cases were entirely false.

Simpson said she knew they had to look into the story if half of what Clark said about the wrongful conviction during their initial conversation was true.

“We would not be where we are but for the good investigative work these podcasters did,” said Meagan Hurley, who along with fellow wrongful conviction attorney Christina Cribbs represented Clark.

Storey and Clark got connected to “Proof” by another prisoner, Joey Watkins, whose case is also being examined by the legal system and was told in a podcast.

True-crime podcasts are a staple of the medium, and that includes wrongful convictions.

Adnan Syed was freed from prison in September after being the subject of the first season of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast eight years ago.

Adnan Syed was released from prison. What role did ‘Serial’ play?

Podcasters solving crimes has become so believable that Hulu explored a fictionalized version in its popular show, “Only Murders in the Building.”

Podcasting has relatively low overhead compared to other mass-storytelling mediums. Producers can go deep in the way television usually does not and utilizes the power of audio, unlike printed stories.

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“What podcasting can do is bring in a fresh set, or independent set, of eyes … that can go uncover important new evidence and put that evidence in context and make that info available to people who can make a difference because of it,” Simpson said.

All cases are different, but Storey and Clark were released a year and a half after “Proof” began reporting. Compare that to the eight years since “Serial” first highlighted Syed’s case.

“It was warp speed,” Davis said.

Simpson said the fast turnaround was partly because case’s facts were so obviously twisted.

“We found a case that the world had forgotten,” she said.

Bowling was on the phone with his girlfriend and had just told her he was playing Russian roulette with a gun brought over by Storey when she heard a single gunshot ring out, according to a court filing from the Georgia Innocence Project.

Storey was initially charged with manslaughter but those charges were upgraded to murder and brought in Clark. That happened, according to the court filing, because of testimony from two witnesses: one who claimed to have seen Clark running through the Bowling’s front yard that night and another who said she had overheard Storey bragging at her party how he and Clark had killed Bowling.

“Proof” found neither to be true.

The man who testified that he saw Clark running has difficulty hearing and speaking, said Simpson. And only in his interview with “Proof” did something tragic become clear: The sign language interpreter in court all those years ago had confused the witness, who thought he was testifying about another young boy who had been shot.

Then there was the party hostess. She, the podcasters found out, said police investigators had coerced her into giving compelling testimony against the men under threat that the police take her children away from her.

Cribbs said it can sometimes be unclear whether an action by a law enforcement official or prosecutor was improper and led to a wrongful conviction. In this case? “It is not a gray area at all,” she said.

Official misconduct plays a role in half of all wrongful convictions in America, according to a study by the National Registry of Exonerations.

When asked if anyone will be punished for the misconduct in this case, Cribbs said: “That’s really unclear, but I do hope that the actions of the DA’s office in this case in agreeing that egregious misconduct (occurred) … sends a message to all the other prosecutors and police officers out there that it is not acceptable.”

Along with discoveries about witnesses from the podcast, Simpson and Davis were also able to show the Bowling family that these two men had not killed Brian. The family ended up advocating for their freedom.

She was kidnapped as a baby in 1971. Her family just found her alive.

Storey and Clark were so thrilled to have their stories told by the podcast and, as expected, both now struggle to believe in the criminal justice system.

“It makes me put more faith in podcasters than politicians,” said Storey, who hopes to start an artificial intelligence business.

Clark said more ethical investigators should have taken more time to look into the case, but he’s not holding a grudge.

“It does me no good to hold hatred to them,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best man I can be.”

Clark said his short-term plan is to make money by cutting trees with his dad and then build airplane parts with his cousin before realizing his ultimate dream — creating a nationwide pet hotel franchise.

He said people consider their pets members of the family and don’t want to leave them in a kennel.

When it was pointed out to him that he wanted to remove a creature that had done nothing wrong from a cage, he agreed: “Hey, I’ve been in a cage. The cage ain’t no good.”

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